Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Section 28

Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 is the most notorious piece of anti-gay legislation to have been enacted in the United Kingdom in modern times. It had its genesis in a Private Member’s Bill introduced in the House of Lords in 1986 by the elderly Earl of Halsbury, President of the National Council for Christian Standards in Society. This failed, but the Christian lobby kept up the attack, and after the 1987 general election the proposal was reintroduced in the House of Commons by David Wilshire, a newly-elected backbench Conservative MP. It was subsequently taken up by the Government and enacted on 24 March 1988, with its famous ungrammatical and gratuitously insulting allusion to “homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Two months later the text technically became Section 2A of the Local Government Act 1986.

In practice, the legislation turned out to be largely symbolic. Indeed, its net effect was ultimately beneficial, thanks to the impetus and strength it gave the lesbian and gay rights movement to go on to achieve other practical reforms. Section 2A (still popularly known as Section 28) was repealed in Scotland in 2000 but remained in force in England and Wales for another three years. It was finally repealed with effect from 18 November 2003 by Section 122 of the Local Goverment Act 2003, which was enacted on 18 September 2003.

Our series of articles covers the history of the clause from humanist opposition before and after its enactment to the prolonged but ultimately unsuccessful efforts of conservative Christian lobbyists to obstruct its complete repeal.

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Created : Sunday, 2000-05-07 / Revised : Saturday, 2003-09-20 / Last updated : Monday, 2009-07-20
Brett Humphreys :